TOKYO – During the Parade of Nations portion of the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony on Friday, two Arkansas alums will have the distinct honor of being flag bearers for their respective countries. Shafiqua Maloney will represent St. Vincent and the Grenadines while Gaby Lopez represents Mexico.
Maloney is a current member of the Razorback track and field team while Lopez was a member of the Razorback golf team from 2012-2016.
Being staged a year later than scheduled, the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held Friday evening at 8 p.m. (JST) inside Japan’s New National Stadium. Typically watched by hundreds of millions of television viewers globally, the Opening Ceremony will air from 5:55 to 10 a.m. (CT) Friday morning on NBC.
Within the Parade of Nations, which includes 205 countries, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be No. 97 in the order while Mexico is No. 181.
With no fans allowed at the Opening Ceremony, a group of around 10,000 diplomats, foreign dignitaries, Olympic sponsors, and members of the International Olympic Committee will be the only spectators in attendance.
Experiencing her first Olympic Games, Maloney is one of just three athletes representing St. Vincent in Tokyo. She will compete in the 800m with the first round held on July 30, the first day of track and field action in the Tokyo Olympics.
“The journey wasn’t what I expected, but we still arrived at the destination,” Maloney said. “So, I’m very thankful for the opportunity to go and represent myself, my country, and most of all the University of Arkansas with the resources they have provided me here.
“I’ve never carried a flag anywhere before, so to do this I’m looking forward to the experience. It will be an experience to remember.”
Lopez will be one of two flag bearers for Mexico as countries had the option to selecting two individuals, one female and one male, to promote gender equity. In the Olympic golf competition, which will start on August 4 for the women, Lopez teams up with another Razorback, Maria Fassi, to represent Mexico.
“Being the flag bearer it’s such a dream come true,” said Lopez. “I mean, you can tell how much I love my country. Every Sunday I wear the colors of the Mexican flag on my outfit, and being able to physically carry that flag, it just gives my chills.
“This is exactly what I play for. I play for my country, for my people, I play for the new generations to be able to inspire them and get them into golf.”
Maloney and Lopez are two of 14 athletes with ties to Arkansas who will compete in the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo while representing nine different countries.
From that group there are 10 athletes competing in track and field. In addition to Maloney, the women’s crew includes Sandi Morris (USA), a silver medalist in the pole vault at the 2016 Rio Olympics, 400m hurdler Sparkle McKnight (Trinidad & Tobago), Dominique Scott (South Africa), who will compete in the 5,000m and 10,000m, and pole vaulter Tina Sutej (Slovenia).
Representing the Razorback men are Kris Hari (Denmark) in the 4×100 relay, Kemar Mowatt (Jamaica) in the 400m hurdles, Phillip Lemonious (Jamaica), a reserve in the 110m hurdles, and shot put world record holder Ryan Crouser (USA), a volunteer assistant coach with the Razorbacks, who is the defending Olympic shot put champion. Hunter Woodhall (USA) has qualified for the Paralympics in the 100m and 400m.
Swimmer Anna Hopkin (Great Britain) competes in the 50m and 100m freestyle while also being in the relay pool. The prelims of the 4×100 freestyle relay are held on Saturday, July 24, the day after the Opening Ceremony.
Lopez and Fassi compete in golf where four rounds of competition will be held at Kasumigaseki Country Club. Razorback women’s basketball grad assistant Kelsey Plum is part of the United States 3×3 women’s team with the first pair of games being played on Saturday, July 24, against France and Mongolia.
Parade of Nations | Order of Countries represented by Razorbacks
|28||Great Britain||Anna Hopkin|
|79||Jamaica||Kemar Mowatt, Phillip Lemonious|
|97||St. Vincent||Shafiqua Maloney (Flag Bearer)|
|118||Trinidad & Tobago||Sparkle McKnight|
|178||South Africa||Dominique Scott|
|181||Mexico||Gaby Lopez (Flag Bearer), Maria Fassi|
|203||United States||Sandi Morris, Ryan Crouser, Kelsey Plum|